Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Apologetic Pigsty

This post is directly addressed to Christians who (like me) spent years and years defending my Christian beliefs because I took a leap of (irrational and illogical) faith… Claiming that to explain away complicated issues regarding faith in Christ one should simply “believe.”

My first semester in Graduate school solidified one truth in my mind.  My plan for engaging people with the truth of Christianity was an utter “Apologetic Pigsty.”  Until that point I had not taken the time to work through my worldview and how I could strategically interact with others for the sake of the Kingdom.  I simply was armed with my Christian clich├ęs that have permeated my mind since 3rd grade Sunday school. Unfortunately, that is no armor at all. I realized that I was scared to engage individuals about my beliefs because I had not rationally thought through my convictions. Don’t allow yourself to be caught with an “Apologetic Pigsy.” The following is a strategy I wrote about concerning Christian apologetics, something every believer should be involved in or preparing for…

Before delving into a basic approach to an apologetic method, it is crucial to define Christian apologetics. Christian apologetics by its very nature is a means of convincing unbelievers and believers of the truth, rationality, wisdom and pertinence of the Christian worldview. Moreover, Christian apologetics commends Christianity in the face of unbelief or doubt. A chief responsibility of Christian apologists is to, in humility, present truth-claims which one must embrace to become a Christian. This is a basic explanation of Christian apologetics. However, it is imperative that one takes a deeper look at the apologetic method he or she will employ, which begins with his or her worldview.

To practice apologetics, a worldview is elemental. James Sire defines the worldview succinctly when he pens,

“A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”

The individual’s worldview or how he or she perceives the world is crucial to apologetics. Understanding what constitutes a worldview is central, however, one must formulate his or her apologetic method.

When Francis Schaeffer was asked if he was an apologist he responded, “I am not an apologete if that means building a safe house to live in, so that we Christians can sit inside with safety and quiescence. Christians should be out in the midst of the world as both witnesses and salt, not sitting in a fortress surrounded by a moat.” Before one can articulate a strategy for apologetics, he or she needs to have the mindset of Schaeffer, understanding that Christian apologetics is about taking these truth-claims to the world, fully embracing the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

The most important preliminary step in formulating an apologetic method is hypothesis testing. One must put his or her worldview on trial. He or she must check for internal coherence, and whether or not his or her arguments fit external facts and or internal facts. This is the starting point for creating a strategy for apologetics.

The next step in this basic approach to Christian apologetics is defining and finding “points of contact.” Doug Groothuis clarifies:

“Points of contact refers to what is shared cognitively and existentially between Christians and non-Christians concerning matters of logic, morality, intuition, longing, and imagination. It is sought by the Christian apologist in order to build a bridge between what the unbeliever now believes and what he or she ought to believe and follow in order to embrace Christian theism and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Once one has found “points of contact,” he or she is ready to find the point of tension in the conversation. This is where one pushes the other person’s worldview toward its logical conclusion, therefore, pushing it further away from the reality of God’s world and Word. Once he or she begins to identify what is happening one must push him or her to adjust his or her worldview in terms of the reality of God’s world. From the point of tension, a transition to the Gospel message is in order. At this point, it is time to call the individual to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is a straightforward outline to intellectually interact with non-Christians. However, one major point needs to be addressed.

Christian apologists are called to humbly defend the Christian truth-claims. Groothuis lays this out clearly when he discusses the importance and Biblical call for humility.

“Christian apologists must understand that we are humbled by creation (Gen. 1:1) and we are utterly dependent on the Lord. Humility should also come through redemption, knowing we are not our own; we were bought with a price (I Cor. 13:12). Therefore, one should deny him or herself, and take up his or her cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23-26). Christian apologists need to hold the truth firmly and humbly (I Peter 3:15), and be courageous, but meek; being sure not to unnecessarily offend others (Matt. 5:5, II Cor. 4:7).”

As Christian apologists, when defending the faith it should be with humility and love. This truth should be the overarching theme of one’s strategic approach to good Christian apologetics.

Before concluding this post I want to put to rest a misconception. Before I really began to study apologetics I thought it was a tactic used to be intellectually arrogant and braggadocios regarding Christianity. This is so far from the truth. I realized that Christian apologetics is simply preparing one’s self to be able to follow 1 Peter 3:15b, which states, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV). Studying apologetics is not simply for your ego, it is to better prepare you to humbly give logical and rational explanations for the existence of God and Christ’s love and grace. If you are a Christian… do the hard work of self-examination and take inventory of why you believe what you claim to believe. If you can’t give a firm answer that would stand up in the face of criticism… studying Christian apologetics should be in your immediate future.